Monday, March 21, 2011

"Peace & Patience" - My Article in the Southside Messenger

Spirit & Truth # 219
“Fruity Christians:  Peace & Patience”
By Rev. Greg Smith

“A young business owner was opening a new branch office, and a friend decided to send a floral arrangement for the grand opening. When the friend arrived at the opening, he was appalled to find that his wreath bore the inscription: ‘Rest in peace.’  Angry, he complained to the florist. After apologizing, the florist said, ‘Look at it this way—somewhere a man was buried under a wreath today that said, ‘Good luck in your new location.’”[i]
The truth is that everybody needs to rest in peace—in this life, without waiting for the next.  But how would it be on Sunday morning if someone greeted you in church with, “Rest in peace.”  Somehow, I think you’d take that wrong. 
During Lent, we’re talking about the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  Last week, we looked at love and joy.  In Acts 18:1-11, the apostle Paul exhibits the next two flavors of Fruit—peace and patience.  In Corinth, he stayed with friends and coworkers Priscilla and Aquilla.  This couple gave him a place to stay, and together they plied their trade as tentmakers.  Honest work was one source of Paul’s peaceful spirit.  Another source of peace was regular worship, both in the synagogue on the Sabbath and among Christians on Sundays.   Later, when Silas and Timothy joined them, Paul spent all his time preaching the word. These friends lent him further support, and helped him remain at peace.  Honest work, worship, and friendship can be a source of peace to you as well, when you find yourself under stress.
Of course, Christian peace is not defined as the absence of conflict, but God’s presence in the midst of it.  When Paul’s audience moved from simple disagreement to personal insults, Paul was already in a place of spiritual peace, and was able to handle the pressure.  “Paul shook the dust from his clothes and said, ‘Your blood is upon your own heads—I am innocent. From now on I will go preach to the Gentiles.’”[ii]  This may sound like a temper tantrum, but actually Paul was following the advice of Jesus in Luke 9:3-5.  He was shaking their negativity off of him (represented by the dust), and basically saying, “I have such peace of mind that your insults don’t affect me.  I have enough patience that I can wait on God’s leadership and can change directions to take the Gospel to others.”  Patience doesn’t always mean staying the same course, if that course isn’t bearing any fruit.  Patience means waiting on God, even if it means a change in direction, and giving Him time to work.
The result of Paul’s peace and patience was that many Gentiles in Corinth came to faith.  “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, ‘Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.’ So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God.”[iii]  What will be the result of peace and patience in your life?  Let God’s spirit grow in you, and wait to see what fruit He brings.

[i] Bits & Pieces, June 23, 1994, p. 4
[ii] Acts 18:6 NLT
[iii] Acts 18:9-11 NLT

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